How Good Is The Jobs News For Obama

A blog about business and economics.
Feb. 3 2012 1:23 PM

How Good Is The Jobs News For Obama

There's a lot of talk today about the good jobs news as good news for the Obama re-election campaign, but while obviously good numbers are better than bad numbers I do think that may be a bit too much of a hasty inference. The "bad economy" and its negative consequences for the incumbent has never taken the form of the median voter being unemployed, and it's also never been the case that the typical voted-for-Obama-and-now-don't-like-him person was an unemployed person. It's perfectly possible to imagine a situation in which the economy keeps adding jobs over the course of 2012 but wages don't keep up with inflation. Indeed in some respects falling real wages makes reductions in unemployment more likely. Given recent talk of exports, it's particularly worth noting that what a rise in net exports means by definition is that people are working harder and not getting a proportionate amount of stuff in return.

More broadly, we added a lot of jobs in the fourth quarter of 2011, but the GDP number wasn't very impressive and Q3 of 2011 was terrible. It's possible that Q4 figure will be revised upward and it's possible that Q1 and Q2 of 2012 will look much better than the previous two quarters, but those overall growth and wage indicators are what I'd be looking at in terms of reading the political tea leaves. Joblessness is a powerful symbol of macroeconomic failure, but the typical American worker is an employed person who wants to see his real income rise. The fate of his pocketbook is related to, but by no means identitical to, the question of job growth for the unemployed.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.